Church, city work to settle their legal dispute peacefully

By Marie E. Matyjaszek

In my last article, I addressed the backlash against Chris Avell and his Ohio church, Dad’s Place, when Avell opened the church to the homeless 24/7 and provided shelter to those in need. Unexpectedly, Avell suddenly found himself facing 18 criminal charges for city ordinance violations, and in turn, Avell slapped the city with a lawsuit for hampering religious activities.

Shortly after I had written my article, I received an email from First Liberty Institute, which included an update on Avell and the church’s predicament. On February 6, 2024, the city of Bryan, Ohio, dropped the charges against Avell, without prejudice, since he agreed to shutter the church’s doors to those seeking shelter. He had previously pleaded not guilty.

According to published reports, Dad’s Place plans on moving forward with obtaining the proper certifications and permits to continue its work of providing for the community. The mayor of Bryan was quoted as saying she appreciated Avell’s willingness “to ensure that the services provided…are delivered in a safe manner.” If you recall, part of the concern for the makeshift inn was the increase of criminal activity in the area.

So how do the church and city move forward and resolve the lawsuit at hand? Mediation, of course! The church and city are engaging in mediation to attempt to reach an amicable resolution.

We often see mediation in domestic law cases, helping people resolve property, custody, parenting time, and support issues while the parties are embroiled in a divorce or custody matter.

Some people aren’t aware that just about anything can be mediated, ranging from complex business disputes to squabbles between neighbors, it’s usually a far less expensive option than a prolonged court case that can fester for months or years.
In the case involving Dad’s Place, the church can better use that money to pay for improvements to expand its community outreach efforts.

This would produce the proverbial win-win for the community.

The author is an Attorney Referee at the Washtenaw
County Friend of the Court, the views expressed here are her own. She can be reached at 

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